Friday, January 27, 2012

Quality vs Quantity

What exactly is quality time? Twenty years ago when I started out in child care "quality time" were the buzz words in the industry. We told parents that as long as they spent "quality time" with their kids, everything would be okay. Better to spend a half hour completely focused then all day taking care of other things while your child tagged along virtually ignored. I bought it! I actually believed it was true. I don't believe it anymore. Let me explain.

Quality time is certainly very important especially if you are a working parent. This much is true. However quantity is also very important. Even when we are not completely focused on our children, they are learning from us and this can be a very good thing. Parents understand the importance of getting things like the dishes or laundry done and let's be honest, sitting for hours on the floor with your toddler can get very boring. No need to feel guilty if you are not entirely engaged 100% of the time. As we go about our day, our children are learning and emulating us. If you are doing dishes, give your little ones the Tupperware in a bin and let them wipe them down. Water is completely optional. If you are baking, give you child a small piece of dough and let them knead along with you. You need not be "engaged," you don't even need to talk, just being together teaches your child about life. He learns to entertain himself, he learns what it takes to run a home. He learns that mom or dad have responsibilities beyond them. (although, honestly that last one doesn't really kick in until he is way, way older.)

Yes, you should spend time focused on your child, give them your attention, your smiles, hugs and kisses. You should sit with them at meal times and teach them that there is reverence in nourishment. These things are all important. Quantity of time is important for your child to learn what his family values. He will learn what is important, what needs to get done. Years ago my then 5 year old followed me into the bathroom and as I got down on my knees to scrub the tub he said, "You actually have to clean the bath tub?" It made me laugh, but that is how they learn, but watching us and modeling what we do. So today when people tell me that they spend a lot of "quality" time with their kids, I congratulate them. I remind however that quantity is also important.